Today’s Valentine’s Week tribute to married couples who met at camp starts with 2 stories from the same camp: Camp CILCA in Cantrell, Illinois. Love for these two couples blossomed from seeds of faith and friendship at this Lutheran overnight camp. They say the ups and downs of camp make it the perfect place to test a relationship and deepen a romance.
Meet Charles & Elizabeth James
While they can’t say officially when they met, this duo estimates that it was around 5th grade. They both attended camp CILCA as young campers every summer growing up. Charles lived just miles away from the camp, and Elizabeth traveled from South Dakota to attend CILCA with a cousin. Both loved the adventure and friendship the weeks at camp provided, so they volunteered as junior counselors during their high school years. They spent a few weeks together in the summers and began emailing (daily) back in forth while in high school.
After graduating from high school, they both accepted summer positions as camp counselors. During their second summer there, they began dating and dated long distance through college, returning to work at camp in the summers for four years all together. Elizabeth served as a head counselor and summer program director, while Charles moved from a cabin counselor onto the maintenance staff.
Elizabeth says they both feel that “CILCA was the perfect combination of faith, friends that become our second family, and a whole lot of fun! She gives two main reasons she thinks camp is an ideal place to meet your spouse:
1. Common interests and/or points of view
“Our Christian faith was an important part of our lives that has been a foundation in our marriage. Attending and working at a Christian camp allowed both of us to grow in our individual walks with Christ and to put worship as a priority in our relationship and later, our marriage.
“We also shared a love for outdoor adventure — something we still partake in! Today we enjoy hiking, biking, and running together (we are working on running a marathon in each of the United States; 13 states down!).
2. Opportunity to see true colors
“Working as a camp counselor is far from glamorous. There was no air conditioning, so we spent most of the summer dirty and stinky. There were nights without sleep due to homesick campers and times when some of our campers were giving us a “run for our money.” We were able to see how the other person handled stressful situations and were also able to support one another through difficulties.
NOTE: After posting this story, we discovered that these two couples featured from Camp Cilca not only knew each other, but were connected in a special way. Joshua Theilen (below) was the pastor who married Elizabeth and Charles!
Meet Joshua & Rebekah Theilen
Joshua and Rebekah met at Camp CILCA in 1999. They were both support staff that year (he was a dishwasher and she was a lifeguard). They spent a lot of time together and quickly became good friends, but did not start dating until the following summer, when they were back at camp once again. “With all the stresses of working at a summer camp, we figured if we could endure that, we could endure anything together,” Joshua said.
The pair got engaged on New Year’s Day, 2003 at the camp and had their wedding ceremony at the camp’s outdoor chapel on August 9, 2003.
Why is camp a great place to meet your spouse? Joshua says:
“Our camp is Lutheran, so it brings together people of common interest who might not normally meet each other. It also allows you to see the other person all day long, not just for short planned dates, in good times and bad, so you get used to one another and know if things are going to be a good fit.”
In March of 2016, Joshua accepted the position of Executive Director at Camp CILCA, so now their whole family lives there.
Next up: You won’t want to miss this great camp love story about a tradition handed down from father to son and then to daughter.